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Sloan pleased with Bell off bench

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Raja Bell played all 82 games last season, starting only four, and wound up one of the NBA's top sixth men.

He started this season coming off the bench yet again, stepped into a starting role at shooting guard for 14 games before being derailed by a sore knee, then stepped back into the role of super-sub in his four games since returning.

Before the Jazz faced the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday night at the Staples Center, Jazz coach Jerry Sloan explained why.

"He probably plays a little bit better off the bench," Sloan said. "I feel like he has at times, and he's a little bit more lively when he comes in."

Was he ever Monday — especially in the final quarter of a 102-94 Utah win.

The Jazz co-captain scored 14 of his 16 points in the fourth, shooting 6-of-9 from the field in the final 12 of his 21 minutes as Utah rallied from four down with just more than eight minutes to go.

"He was terrific," Sloan said. "Whenever he went out there on the floor he was concentrating on doing the right thing. He moved well, he passed the ball well, he caught it and shot it. He was on a roll.

"Those are the kind of shots he can make," the Jazz coach added after Bell hit a boatload of outside jumpers, the last a 3-pointer (his only trey attempt of the game) with 33.8 seconds left to put Utah up by six. "He was really red-hot . . . Whenever he got the ball, he didn't mess around with it."

Teammates noticed, too.

"He came in strong," said forward Matt Harpring, the Jazz's other co-captain. "It's hard to do when you're sitting on the bench — (to) just come in the game and be on fire like that."

Five others played longer than Bell's 21 minutes Monday, including starting shooting guard Gordan Giricek, who scored 15 points in 25 minutes.

Bell, though, did not appear bothered by that fact.

"We have really good players on this team; some nights it's your turn and sometimes it's not," he said. "You just try to make the most of it.

"I never second-guess the coach," added Bell, who is averaging 28.3 minutes per game. "Sometimes as a competitor you feel like you want to play, but it's not my job to call the plays. My job is to go out there and do my job when it's that time."

IN THE ZONE: In last Saturday's loss to Cleveland, and all too often this season, the Jazz have had fits playing against a zone defense.

Not so vs. the Lakers, against whom Utah shot 47.1 percent (41-of-87) from the floor.

"We attacked it better. We shot the ball when we were open, and against Cleveland we just threw the ball around and didn't take open shots," Harpring said. "(Monday) was a different story. We took them when we had them, and if we missed it we didn't hang our heads."

WANNABE: Retired point guard Mark Jackson, who spent one season of his long NBA career backing up John Stockton in Utah, works these days as an ESPN color commentator.

Jackson, though, has higher aspirations.

"I'd love to coach any team," Jackson, who apparently does not feel he needs to toil first as an assistant, told Denver's Rocky Mountain News.

"I played point guard for 17 years," Jackson added, "and that's basically an extension of the coach."

REST: The Jazz do not play again until Saturday night vs. Memphis at the Delta Center, so Sloan gave them Tuesday and today off from practice before returning to work Thursday.

E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com